The Spurgeon Center: Critical Abilities (John Ewart)

Editor’s Note: Every Thursday morning at Between the Times we highlight the work of Southeastern’s Spurgeon Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching. Directed by John H. Ewart, who also serves as Associate Vice President for Global Theological Initiatives at Southeastern, the Spurgeon Center exists to equip and encourage pastors to lead healthy, disciple-making churches for the glory of God around the world. In the effort to accomplish this mission, through the board of advisors and others the center will be offering assistance, resources and training to our students, as well as to pastors and churches, to further equip them to serve well in the crucible of real life ministry. This week Dr. Ewart introduces the work of the Spurgeon Center with a series on Critical Abilities in pastoral leadership.

Years ago, while serving in the Philippines with the then Foreign Mission Board, my supervisor and I were scheduled to attend a church planting strategy meeting on a nearby island. We drove to the coast, but due to delays missed the last automobile ferry for the day. A man overheard our problem and led us to a smaller ferry designed to carry people only. The craft had no ramp for vehicles, only a gangplank for people to walk on board. We explained we would need our car on the island to drive to our meeting. The captain just smiled and said, “No problem, we can put your car onboard.”

The gangplank was removed and the crew proceeded to lay two large boards between the edge of the dock and the edge of the boat. When the boards were in place the captain smiled and calmly said, “Drive on.” My supervisor, who had been driving and to whom the car was assigned, quickly handed me the keys and less calmly said, “Drive on.” Seeing we had no other option, I sat down behind the wheel of our mission board’s vehicle, released the clutch slowly and drove toward the end of the dock.

When I reached the edge, I realized I had a major problem. The dock was higher than the boat and the boards slanted downward. I could not see the boards! I had no idea which way to move. Recognizing the look of panic on my face, the captain hopped out on the boards and began to direct me with hand signals. I was totally dependent upon him. I focused intensely upon his every direction. He motioned me to the right, and to the left, and at one point frantically motioned for me to stop. Needless to say, I stopped!

I will never forget that moment, feeling the boards bending, listening to them creak, going up and down with the waves. One wrong move and I would plunge into the ocean. Finally I was able to creep forward, clutch and all, moving up and down with the tide, and inched my way toward the boat.

I learned much about life that day. It is full of deep water and unseen challenges. Each day holds uncertainty and the unknown. We cannot see what the next minute contains. We must move forward yet we cannot see the “boards” ahead of us. We need a guide. We need someone who can see the “boards” to direct us. We need the one who put the “boards” into place and knows them perfectly to show us the way. We must focus intensely upon his every direction. We must intentionally adjust our movement, or stop our movement, according to his command.

Graciously, God has created and set into place certain “boards” upon which His people are to intentionally move forward. These “boards” are the biblical principles and practices for our lives and His church. We must intentionally adjust our movement, or stop our movement, according to these principles. We must trust the One who has put them into place to guide us. When properly followed and fulfilled, His “boards” will lead us to accomplish His Mission.

Over the next few weeks I am going to write a series of posts discussing what I believe to be specific, critical abilities leaders in the church must possess to not only acknowledge but to stay “on the boards.”

Leadership and ministry skills development should be an intentional part of every local church ministry. They are necessary aspects of discipleship. That is why we have created an intentional bridge between the local church and seminary called the C. H. Spurgeon Center for Pastoral Leadership and Preaching. It exists to equip and encourage pastors to lead healthy, disciple-making churches for the glory of God around the world. Check it out on our website. And check back next Thursday for the next installment in the Critical Abilities series.


A Letter From the President: Reflections On Ten Wonderful Years

On January 15th of this year I celebrated my 10th year at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  For Charlotte and me, this is almost impossible to believe!  And yet at the same time, we have experienced so many things.  As I pen this letter from Istanbul, Turkey, where we have the joy of being with students that God has called to the nations, I am aware that during these 10 years we have buried three parents, welcomed three daughters-in-law, added 10 grandchildren, and celebrated 35 years of marriage and ministry together.  On a personal level, God has blessed us with a full and joyful life.  With the psalmist I delight to sing, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” (Psalm 103:1).

I can also sing that same verse as I think about all the ways our Lord has blessed the school I have the honor and privilege of serving.  An exhaustive list would require a book!  However, let me highlight a few of the good things our great God has done in the past decade.

1)   The Lord led us to a very clear “mission statement” that says who we are.  The shorthand version is “Southeastern is a Great Commission Seminary.”  Ask anyone on our campus who we are, and that is the answer you will receive.  The longer version simply says, “Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission.”  This statement guides us in all that we do.  I believe it has helped a really good seminary to become an even better seminary.  It keeps us focused on the final marching orders of King Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20).

2)   The Lord has grown our school from just over 2400 to over 3100 students, and the future looks even brighter.  What a blessing!

3)   We have gone from having one endowed faculty chair to seven!  This is a double blessing in that it honors wonderful servants of God and helps the seminary financially.  I would love to see this number double in the next 10 years.

4)   The Lord has graced us with as fine of a faculty as you will find anywhere in the world.  Our students have the joy of studying under godly men and women who are churchmen, brilliant scholars, and followers of King Jesus who have a deep love for the church and a passion for the nations.  Three of my own sons and a daughter-in-law have studied or are studying here.  As a dad, I could not ask for a better place of training for my children.

5)   We built the Prince Facilities building and Patterson Hall.  Both buildings have been a tremendous asset to Southeastern in terms of how we care for the campus and teach our students.

6)   The Lord has blessed me with an incredible leadership team that has taken Southeastern to the next level.  Bruce Ashford, Jamie Dew, Ryan Hutchinson, Mark Liederbach, Chuck Lawless and Art Rainer excel in their areas of responsibility.  They make me look better than I am!  And, they are my brothers and friends who challenge me to be more like Jesus.

7)   Under the leadership of John Ewart, we launched EQUIP which allows the seminary and local churches to partner in doing theological education.  The brilliant New Testament Scholar Don Carson said this model was a utopian dream.  By God’s grace, we are making it a reality.

8)   Shortly before his death, we instituted the L. Rush Bush Center for Faith and Culture.  Initially directed by Bruce Little, it is now led by Ken Keathley.  This Center is simply stellar in engaging the cultural issues that the church must face and address with biblical truth and conviction.  I know Dr. Bush is smiling from heaven in all the Center is accomplishing.

9)   We were able to receive and house the letters and papers of Francis Schaeffer, one of evangelicalism’s leading apologists in the 20th century.  Words are not adequate to express what a gift this is.  Bruce Little rightly deserves a huge “thank you” for making this happen.

10)  Finally, and I could continue for a long time, the Lord Jesus has blessed our campus with a spirit of love, joy and gratitude.  My friend Mark Dever calls us “the happy campus.”  I think he is right.  Visitors often comment about the happy, joyful servant spirit they find on this campus.  It bears much fruit.  We know that over 90% of prospective students who visit our campus will choose Southeastern as their seminary or college.  Why?  Because students, staff, faculty and administration are happy to be here and we just can’t hide it.  And, we don’t want to!

On a number of occasions I have been asked if I aspired to be a seminary president.  The fact is when God called me into ministry in 1977 on the Papago Indian Reservation in Sells, Arizona, this boy from Georgia did not know what a seminary was.  I did not know they even existed.  No, all I have ever wanted to do since that day is please the Lord Jesus, preach the Bible, serve the church, and share the gospel.  I am the most surprised of all that I get to do what I do.  I am a blessed man far beyond what I could ever hope, imagine or deserve.  Thank you King Jesus for these wonderful years.  If it is your will, I look forward to many more.


SEBTS Entrusts John Ewart with Leadership of Global Theological Initiatives

We at BtT wish to make our readers aware that SEBTS recently named John Ewart as Associate Vice President for Global Theological Initiatives. Dr. Ewart brings quite a bit to the table: he is a top-shelf leader and visionary, a seasoned pastor, a popular classroom instructor, a recognized expert on small group based church growth strategies, and the holder of an irrepressibly sharp wit.

Dr. Ewart has served as Fletcher Professor of Missions at SEBTS since 2008, while also serving as Associate Vice President of Program Development. He has served as senior pastor of four Southern Baptist churches, is the founder and president of R.E.A.C.H Worldwide Ministries, teaches evangelism and missions, and holds degrees from Baylor, Southwestern, and Southern.

Dr. Ewart provides leadership for several major areas within SEBTS, including The Center for Great Commission Studies (CGCS), our partnerships with local churches (EQUIP and supervised ministry), and our distance and innovative learning initiatives. For those BtT readers who are interested in partnering with SEBTS or sending students to SEBTS, here is an expanded summary of the exciting initiatives led by Dr. Ewart.

In addition Dr. Ewart oversees our current and potential partnerships in the United States and abroad. Current partnerships include Uganda, Liberia, Zambia, Sudan, Vietnam, Malaysia, East Asia, Moldova, Ukraine, Germany, England, the Middle East, Brazil, Mexico, El Salvador, Cuba, and Peru. Components of the partnerships include adjunctive teaching, affording faculty members in these countries the opportunity to do doctoral work with SEBTS, evangelism and missions projects, and various levels of consultation and assessment. Each partnership includes a prayer covenant as well. Here in North America, Dr. Ewart oversees similar partnerships with urban church planters in cities such as Atlanta, Boston, New York, and Toronto.

Finally, Dr. Ewart oversees the multiple initiatives associated with the CGCS. His oversight includes the MDiv International Church planting (a missions degree which includes both an on-campus component and a two-year missionary field service component), various North American church planting initiatives, and student/faculty short-term missions mobilization. In addition, Dr. Ewart’s office directs and administrates SEBTS’ distance learning initiatives and its EQUIP supervised field ministry partnerships with local churches and parachurch organizations.